Of course Hong Kong belongs in the Anglosphere
Iwrote in these pages last week about the idea of an Anglosphere free trade nexus – an association of common law, English-speaking states that recognise each other’s goods, services and professional qualifications. I have been pursuing the scheme with politicians and think tanks overseas for the past year.
Which countries might initially qualify? Those with comparable levels of income and interoperable business norms: Britain, the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong – plus possibly Israel, which has the same common-law system and commercial rules as the others. The controversial inclusion is Hong Kong, where I spent much of this week. Some fret that another crackdown in mainland China might push millions of Hong Kongers to London and Vancouver. Others see the territory as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s dodgy industrial espionage.
Neither objection though has any direct bearing on Hong Kong’s participation in an Anglosphere commercial network. Our proposed trade arrangement provides for freedom of labour, not the right to settle permanently in each other’s countries. In any case, around half the 7.4million Hong Kongers already have that right, holding second passports from other Anglosphere states.
As for Chinese cyber attacks, they happen today in countries that have no trade deals with Beijing. If anything, using Hong Kong to pull China deeper into a rules-based association with the English-speaking democracies is a bonus. One of the subtleties of that territory’s politics that goes largely unremarked in the West is that the keenest supporters of its economic model – low taxes, light regulation, zero tariffs – tend to be in the parties that are labelled “proBeijing” rather than “pro-democracy”. This was the faction that cheered when the Chinese foreign minister offered Jeremy Hunt a comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement in July, seeing such a deal as likely to encourage the stalled process of market reforms in Beijing.
Ultimately, though, the case for including Hong Kong is that nowhere else on earth so perfectly embodies the power of free trade. In 1960, Hong Kong was a poor, resource-free, muggy island. Today, it is one of the wealthiest places on the planet. What brought that miracle about? Unilateral trade liberalisation. Hong Kongers understood that the best way to get rich was to remove the obstacles between businesses and their customers, and that this removal should not be contingent on what other countries did.
Who made it happen? An unassuming Scottish civil servant called John Cowperthwaite, who ran the territory’s economy in the Sixties on the principles adumbrated by his countryman Adam Smith. His success directly inspired Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote of the need to “Hong Kongise” his homeland, combining Chinese enterprise with British legal norms. Those two city states are now gleaming examples of what open markets can achieve. It’s time for Britain to repatriate its revolution.
Prince Charles says he is inspired by the most famous Prince of Wales of all – the future Henry V. For hundreds of years, appreciative audiences have watched that young scapegrace put aside his louche friends and grow into the embodiment of a soldier-king.
We can only marvel at the power of Shakespeare’s creative genius. The historical Prince Hal was, as far as we can make out, rather a pious, serious young man. But that flesh-and-blood figure is, for all practical purposes, immeasurably less “real” than the ruthless warrior of the Henriad, who thinks nothing of bossing God about in his prayers; whose hardness toward his former companions makes our blood run cold; whom an awe-struck WB Yeats found “as remorseless and undistinguished as some natural force”.
We might struggle to picture the current Prince of Wales taking savage pleasure in battle, ordering the execution of prisoners, inspiring his troops with “a little touch of Charlie in the night”. But the essence of Prince Hal’s narrative is uplifting, apt and universal: we can all put aside our former selves and rise, when necessary, to an occasion. This story shall the good man teach his son. FOLLOW Daniel Hannan on Twitter @DanielJHannan; at telegraph.co.uk/opinion
A traditional Chinese junk and a modern container ship in Hong Kong: the former colony has shown the world the power of free trade